A man who sexually abused a teenage girl on a camping trip has avoided a jail sentence, in part because of his own young age at the time.
The man was 19 when he struck up a relationship with the young teenager via Facebook.
On one occasion they met at the cinema, and the girl's mother told the man how old her daughter was.
In response to a message from the victim's brother, the man said he was not dating the girl as she was far too young.
Shortly afterwards, the man took the girl camping and told her mother other members of the family would also attend.
The woman told the man that he would be in trouble if anything happened between the two during this trip.
Physical sexual offending occurred during this trip.
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During the few months he was in contact with the girl, the man also sent explicit messages which included requests for sexual videos of her.
The girl's mother later discovered some of these messages and the matter was reported to police.
She told the man police knew of his relationship with the girl and he deleted the incriminating material, although police later recovered it from his phone.
He pleaded guilty in the County Court to two counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16, indecent act with a child under 16, and using a carriage service to transmit indecent communication to a person under 16.
In a victim impact statement, the girl told the court of the deleterious impact the offending had had against her.
"I just want to be the person I was before all this happened. I was much more sociable and happy," she said.
The girl's mother also spoke of the guilt she felt at letting her daughter go away with the offender.
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At the sentencing hearing this week, Judge Claire Quin noted that a psychologist reported the man as being emotionally immature.
She took into account his guilty plea and that he had expressed remorse for his actions.
The matter had also hung over his head for some years, Judge Quin said, as there was a delay between the report to police and charges being laid.
She said the man's youth was an important factor to take into consideration and his rehabilitation had to be at the forefront of sentencing, but noted he had known what he was doing was wrong and the offending was a breach of trust.
Judge Quin accepted the man's mental illness would make prison more difficult for him, and the COVID-19 situation was also a hardship.
She sentenced him to a three-year community corrections order with 250 hours of unpaid community work, as well as mental health and offender behaviour treatment.
He will remain a registered sex offender for life.
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